What are the Prerequisites for a PhD in Clinical Psychology?

PhD in clinical psychology prerequisites are a natural foundation towards obtaining a doctoral degree in this career field. Clinical psychologists must possess a depth of knowledge about the emotional, mental and behavioral aspects of human development as they are charged to assess and treat many disorders that affect the quality of people’s lives. As a result, the educational path for becoming a Doctor of Clinical Psychology has several prerequisite levels to navigate before attaining this degree.

Advantages of a Doctoral Degree in Psychology

Candidates may pursue bachelor’s, master’s, professional, or doctoral degrees in a variety of psychology concentrations, including clinical. Advantages of holding higher psychology degrees, especially a doctorate, include:

  • Having a broader range of employment choices.
  • Starting in mid-level or higher positions.
  • Being on the forefront of developing and enacting new mental health programs.
  • Enjoying more career advancement opportunities.

PhD in clinical psychology prerequisites, therefore, open the career pathway for those aspiring to achieve a doctorate that will provide a high level of career satisfaction and success.

Educational Stages

The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests an educational framework for those interested in psychology careers. Foundational courses may begin as early as high school, and interested students should take part in as many courses and experiences related to the field as possible. It should be noted that regardless of the level of study, maintaining a high grade point average (GPA) is always a key factor in program acceptances, enabling students at any level to have a broader choice among post-secondary or post-graduate schools.

  • High School – Many secondary programs offer courses which explore psychology principles, such as human growth and development or parenting. Higher level psychology classes, offered through AP or baccalaureate programs, may also be studied. In addition, rigorous levels of math, science and English are recommended as psychology is a multidisciplinary field that uses skills from each of these subjects.
  • Undergraduate Programs – At the bachelor’s degree level, students are intensively exposed to the scientific method for behavioral analysis, learning theory and principles of human behavior. These foundations prepare the psychology major for further training at the graduate level and help learners narrow their field of study.
  • Graduate Programs – A background that includes a foundation of basic psychology principles, research, and statistics prepares students for master’s degree studies in clinical psychology. Course content focuses on the concepts and practices of advanced behavior and personality theories, assessment procedures, program evaluations, and ethics. Those planning to go on with doctoral studies should also look at entrance requirements for their preferred school, as each institution’s guidelines vary. Many times, students will participate in programs where the master’s and PhD degrees are earned concurrently, and their continuation towards the PhD is based on performance at master’s level.
  • Post-Graduate Programs – While having a master’s degree is preferred, some undergraduate degree holders with on-the-job training or other strong academic recommendations may be eligible for entering a PhD clinical psychology program. Degree completion for the clinical psychology PhD focuses on completing advanced coursework while participating in clinical practicums, internships or residencies in supervised settings. Advanced topics involve studying: developmental psychopathology, neuroscience, research methods, statistical analysis of results, cognitive and pathological assessments, treatment and behavioral methods, and intervention techniques. Completing a thesis, dissertation, research project, or specialty paper is required according to each program’s mandates. In some cases, PhD candidates will also be expected to teach undergraduate courses in the discipline.

Resource: State Listing of Psychology Degree Programs

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Earning a PhD in Clinical Psychology is an intensive process. It requires a time commitment of five to seven years beyond the master’s level for completion of coursework and supervised training experiences. In addition, those seeking to work as clinical psychologists must pass certification and licensure exams to become independent practitioners. Educational requirements for taking these exams vary by state, but in general they require that doctorate degrees are from accredited institutions and that the candidate has at least two years of supervised, professional training. Regardless, completing PhD in Clinical Psychology prerequisites provides a degree pathway towards a rewarding career for those with a passion for helping people.